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Martha Graham Essay

1013 words - 4 pages

Martha Graham: A Dancer's Lifeby Russell FreedmanMartha Graham(1894-1991) was a dancer, choreographer, and teacher for more than 70 years, and during that time she changed the landscape of dance forever. In 1998 TIME Magazine named Martha Graham as the Dancer of the Century, and People Magazine named her among the female "Icons" of the Century. She created 181 ballets and a dance technique that has been compared to ballet in its scope and magnitude. Many of the great modern and ballet choreographers have studied the Martha Graham Technique or have been members of her company.We can say that Martha Graham is The Twentieth Century's Most Important Dancer, the Mother of Modern Dance. She had significant contributions to what is today called "contemporary" dance. Her contrasting ideas of dances being composed of harsh, angular floor movement transformed the art of dance performance and altered the perceptions of those who thought they understood what dance was.After witnessing a life-changing performance in 1911, at age seventeen, at the Mason House Opera in Los Angles by ballet dancer Ruth St. Denis, she decided that dancing would be her style of life. That performance inspired her to enroll in the specialized junior arts college, Cumnoch University and later the Denishawn School of Dance, whose company she joined. Founded by Ruth St. Denis and her husband Ted Shawn, the company was one of the first to specialize in performances overlooked in the United States, such as Greek pageants, Japanese sword dances, and seductive Spain-inspired flamencos.In 1926, Martha Graham founded her dance company and school, living and working out of a tiny Carnegie Hall studio in midtown Manhattan. The principles of contraction and release were the foundation for her technique. Graham's dancing and choreography exposed the depths of human emotion through movements that were sharp angular, jagged, and direct. The dance world was forever altered by Martha Graham's vision which has been and continues to be a source of inspiration for generations of dance and theatre artists.Martha Graham ballets were inspired by a wide variety of sources, including modern painting, the American frontier, religious ceremonies of Native Americans, and Greek mythology. Many of her most important roles portray great women of history and mythology: Clytemnestra, Jocasta, Medea, Phaedra, Joan of Arc, and Emily Dickinson."Every dance is a kind of fever chart, a graph of the heart. ... The instrument through which the dance speaks is also the instrument through which life is lived ... the human body," Graham once said, explaining her abandonment of the neoclassical ballet.For Graham, ballet's nature to be graceful, soft, and flowing, disregarded the more "violent" traditional passions. She thought that she could express emotional and spiritual themes through spastic movements, tremblings, and falls, which other types of dance chose not to include.Movement was initiated from the pelvis and...

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